Representatives from the NAACP, several attorneys and members of Josef Richardson’s family said they want justice in the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy-involved shooting at a Port Allen motel last week.
The event started with chants of “no justice, no peace,” and midway through the first speaker, the chant changed to “one bullet to the back of the head; what more needs to be said,” a question that echoed throughout the rest of the hour-long gathering.
Several attorneys were involved in the press conference, including Benjamin Crump, a well-known civil rights attorney.
He presented the opening statements on the steps of the West Baton Rouge Parish Courthouse in front of about 200 people and representatives from almost 10 area media outlets.
“We all unite to stand for justice for Josef and his family,” he said. “…What we are demanding from law enforcement is transparency.”
“…Their silence is deafening,” Crump said of the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. He called the lack of response from the Sheriff’s Office as “a betrayal to the community.”
“They have not uttered one word to his family,” he continued, about why Richardson was shot.
“The only eyewitness aside from the West Baton Rouge police officers who knows exactly what happened in that room on that fateful night when he was murdered,” Crump said, then nodded in the direction of a woman identified as Richardson’s girlfriend, Jessica Clouatre. “She knows firsthand what happened.”
Clouatre, 39, was arrested later that night, charged with one count each of distribution and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute and distribution and possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine .
It was Crump who started the “one bullet to the back of the head” chant after saying it was his belief Richardson was not given the chance to comply with any law enforcement directions.
“It was sudden,” Crump said of the entry of the deputies into the motel room. “There wasn’t any time for any verbal commands.”
The next speaker was Michael McClanahan, the president of the Baton Rouge chapter of the NAACP, who said Richardson’s family and the community deserve a swift investigation.
“We want equal justice now, because as Dr. (Martin Luther) King said, ‘Justice delayed is justice denied,’” he said.
McClanahan also said the deputy who allegedly shot Richardson should be publicly identified along with his background.
Richardson’s “mother has a right to know, his children have a right to know, the community has a right to know and the nation has a right to know,” he said.
“We want to know does he have a pattern of excessive force against minorities…Has he ever killed anybody,” McClanahan continued.
Clerice Lacy, a local woman who was identified by Crump as “a battle ax for justice,” did not speak until the end of the press conference.
“We have been working for many months trying to get people to understand we must come together, that united we must stand or together we will fall,” she said.
“We knew it was only a matter of time before this would happen,” Lacy said of Richardson’s shooting. “…The police themselves are not working for the people.”
McClanahan agreed with the insistence of Lacy and other speakers upon transparency throughout the investigation.
“It is important to know what we demand—the NAACP, the black churches the black lawyers and the black community—what we are demanding is transparency,” he said.
“…More importantly, what are seeking is the truth,” McClanahan continued.
After several of Richardson’s family members and other attorneys representing different people involved in the tragedy, Crump spoke again.
“Until we get justice, there will be no peace,” he said.
Richardson’s daughter, Ja’Kera Richardson, bravely stepped to the podium to talk about her father’s death.
“He didn’t deserve to be murdered,” she said. “…I can’t sleep knowing there’s no justice for my daddy.”
Hours after the press conference, authorities released the warrant that had been issued to the Sheriff’s Office, which indicates deputies were looking for drugs in Richardson’s room.
The State Police also released a statement after the press conference was over.
“The Louisiana State Police is committed to conducting a thorough, independent and impartial investigation,” it read. “However, the investigative process takes time.”
“There’s no room for error when we are working to gather all the facts,” the agency’s statement continues. “The premature release of information can in fact affect the totality of the investigation.”